August 20, 2012
Tom Zürrer’s Success Story and Running Tips
Tom Zürrer, the number one winner of the “Burn your Sneakers” Running Challenge, has been interviewed by dacadoo. In 31 days, he has run more than 721 km in a total time of 70 hours – impressive!
Further below in this article you will find Tom’s detailed report on impressions during this challenge. His running advice is particularly motivating. Check it out and let it inspire your own fitness goals!
Tom Zürrer’s Story
Has your life changed with dacadoo?
dacadoo has certainly brought many changes to my lifestyle. Having used the application for almost 8 months now, I find myself monitoring my physical condition much closer than before. With the measurement tools incorporated in the application and the web interface, fitness and wellness has become transparent. Other than during the “Burn your Sneakers” challenge I have become much more diverse in my physical activities, which now ranges from and changes between running, walking, cycling and mountain biking; and in winter I add cross country and downhill skiing as well.
I feel healthy and mentally balanced thanks to the increased focus on sports activities.
Do you have a (professional) sports background and did you, or do you participate in competitions?
I do not have a particular sports background, other than I was a mountain bike enthusiast in the mid to late 90s, and I liked to do the big tours. Whenever I did sports, I liked to focus on endurance. I had participated once in the Iron Bike race in Einsiedeln as finisher of the large course in 1998. I started running early 2011 and ran the Luzern Half Marathon last October.
How or where did you find dacadoo?
Good friends of mine who were dacadoo users introduced me to dacadoo in December 2011; I was especially impressed by the variety of activities that can be monitored, measured and stored on dacadoo which I find is unique when comparing to other products in the market. I like the mix and match and the ability to have one score at the end, and to benchmark my own physical condition against my peers within and outside the dacadoo space.
What is your motivation?
My key motivation is to be happy with what I am doing and to have a good work/life balance. I do get motivated by challenges, be it professionally or in my private life, and the “Burn your Sneakers” challenge was an extreme one on the private side which has, however, also reflected into my professional life.
How did you feel after winning the “Burn your Sneakers” challenge?
My primary goal hadn’t been to win the challenge as I had to face very stiff competition from much younger and better trained athletes. That’s why I had set myself a goal of running 700km during the challenge, and so I had planned my schedule accordingly. When I found myself at the top of the leader board after day one (not after the first hour, this top position belongs to Keno) and also after day 31 and all the days in between, I was extremely satisfied. Winning such a challenge which I believe must have been the first of its kind, was very special. Somehow, I felt sorry for the other challengers who did really great, too. There were challengers exclusively running (like me), and others were engaged in cycling and swimming in addition, and all have my great respect.
Do you have any running advice to share?
There are much more competent people to give advice, and I am sure I am not a role model for how you should be running. Besides eating the right food and drinking enough water, I discovered a special skill during the 31 Half Marathons. I learnt to run with the awareness of all my senses: to look at the beautiful scenery; I still see the Mediterranean Sea in Calvi, the lush green rice pads in Hyderabad, the full Apricot trees in Martigny. To listen at the sounds around you; I still hear the birds singing in the Corsican trees, the cars honking in Vattinagulapalli or the trains overtaking me in Wädenswil. To smell the various odors in the air; the spicy air in the Corsican fields around Montemaggiore, or the very tasty smells of the Indian cuisine when running through the village of Gowlidody. My recommendation for longer runs is very simple: try to leave your music at home and enjoy what your senses will report back to your brain – it is fantastic.
What’s the next big personal goal in your life?
Well, how do you define a big goal? Being interviewed in a sports context, I will focus on my personal goals in the sports scene. One of them is to continue with my running (and other sports activities) and keeping my dacadoo health score at a reasonable high level. In the short term, I am on the process of putting together a team for “The Wayve”, a 111km run around the lake of Zurich on September 22, and I will again run at the Luzern Half Marathon in October. Next year I have my first full Marathon on the agenda, and there is also a slight possibility that I will run the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town if time permits; this is a 56km ultra marathon through the Cape peninsula.
Tom’s Running Report
Additionally to the interview, Tom has been so kind to write a very detailed report with further insights about the planning and the adventure of the “Burn your Sneakers” Running Challenge.
First big thanks to Peter for organizing the challenge and offering the generous prizes, and to the whole dacadoo team for running the administration including all the communication efforts.
Thanks also to all the co‐challengers. It was fun running with you, reading your comments, and sharing thoughts and pictures.
When this challenge was first published, I had thought to myself that given the amount of running I do every week, I should maybe subscribe to it, which is what I did at an early stage.
Having had a couple of weeks to get ready for the challenge, I was convinced I did not want to run against a leader board (this would have disturbed my mind during the challenge), nor did I remotely think I could even run for a prize, given the fact I was facing competition of much younger and better trained athletes, and given the fact I had only started running recently. So, I decided I wanted to test myself against a given set of goals, set for the 31 days during which the challenge was running.
But what could be reasonable or achievable goals? Last year in London (before my dacadoo era) I had run in two instances 3 half marathons in three consecutive days, after which I had felt worn out and tired. So, should I go for 3 half marathons/week? I wasn’t really sure about this, other than that goals should be ambitious. Finally I defined my target at running 700km over the 31 days of the challenge (equaling to an average of 22.6km/day), not knowing at this stage if it was achievable or not, but I had to start somewhere. I knew in the beginning that I would not be able to run at all on one day, and only +/‐ 10km on a second day, so I had to build a reserve at the beginning, being convinced running after a goal is much more difficult than running in front of it.
In addition, I did not know how my body would react to the challenge, and whether I needed additional days of resting for health or other reasons, thus I needed to build an additional reserve to this. That’s how I came up with a concept that I call “The Extra Meter”. For each additional meter I added to my daily average target of 22.6km, I gained 31 meters over the duration of the challenge. While 31 meters are not a lot, an additional 100m/day would add 3km, and an additional 500m/day even a 15km margin, which is quite substantial and only a couple of more minutes of daily running…
If you look at my running tracks, you will observe there is very often a built-in couple of additional 100 meters or so, which would not make sense in the context of just this one run.
dacadoo with its tracking and reporting functionality has been an excellent companion during the challenge to make sure I was on target with my ambitious goals. The leader board was a good guidance to see how the competition was progressing over time.
For me, transparency was one of the key elements during the challenge. Very early in the game I offered to the participants on the leader board to connect and become friends on dacadoo, so that we could all share our rhythm, the courses ran and the time spent on running. I also made sure that wherever I had 3G coverage available, the data would be uploaded immediately, and where I had no 3G coverage (Corsica) that the daily runs would be uploaded as soon as possible to give the other challengers an opportunity to react.
A big advantage for me was the geographical diversity during the challenge. I started off in Martigny (Switzerland) where our company is headquartered, then moved to Corsica (France) where we spent almost 2 weeks of vacation, before returning home in the region of Zurich for a couple of days, after which I shifted to India (Hyderabad) to complete the last 10 days of the challenge. While on one side it is great to run on known terrain, I like to explore new routes, especially these days when you can map out your courses online on tools like Google maps.
Martigny was a good location to start, we had good weather, and I had run in the region at least 300km during 2011 and 2012, so I knew the environment quite well and was mentally well prepared. In addition, it was apricot season and wonderful to run along and through the apricot plantations, dreaming of the wonderful fruits, but not daring to pick one… I gave my runs an early start to be back in the office on time, so the alarm usually went at 5am, and I was out running around 5.30am.
It was later in the challenge, and thanks to dacadoo, when I realized that Patrice was also running in Martigny, and that every morning I passed the house in front of which Patrice usually starts his runs.
For the activity enthusiast, Corsica is a nice island to be on. We have been going there as a family for over 30 years now, mostly to the same little village called Calenzana. From July 14 to 26 we were based there on vacation, so I had enough time to focus on running.
As a former mountain bike enthusiast, I had been biking a lot around Calenzana in the past decades, but this time was different. I left the bike in the cellar and put on my sneakers instead, running the courses I was usually covering by bike. Due to the heat during the day and in order to save the rest of the day for our family life, I again went out quite early, between 5.30am to 6am. Every day I was able to cover my 22 to 32 km in the morning, and on 3 afternoons I added an additional 11km by running to the beach instead of taking the car. I especially enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the view of the Mediterranean Sea and the very particular smell of spices in the air.
After our return from Corsica I spent a few days in Switzerland, but I could only run on 4 out of the five days.
My toughest run during the challenge was the one on Friday, July 27, the day we returned home from vacation. It was hot (around 32 degrees) and I felt tired after the journey, but still had my goal in mind. As we had to go to Zurich that afternoon, I packed my running gear and decided to run my half marathon along the lake of Zurich, from Zurich to Wädenswil. I wished I had packed my swimming trunks as well, seeing all those people swim in the lake. That day I spent running for almost 2.5 hours for the distance; albeit not having been a fast runner during the whole challenge, this was about the slowest per/km time I had run, but given the fact the next day was my “day off from running”, this was ok as I had time to recover.
On the Monday of the following week I was off to India on a business trip, so I had only time to do about 12 km, at 4.30am and equipped with a headlamp.
The days in India were an excellent time for me to complete the challenge. Having lived in this country for nearly 6 years, I knew what to expect from the climate, and during previous visits to Hyderabad, I had already explored the environment and the potential running tracks. Every day I ran a different route, which I had mapped out in Google maps the night before; the GPS tracking has then helped me to figure out which turns I had to take. I had to improvise only once during one run, where I found that a road that was still on the map had become victim of a construction site and had been closed; but still, I could figure out an alternate route as I had the general directions and distances in mind.
In my plan I had calculated to finish the challenge with my goal of 700km on August 8, a day before the official end date. Coming home and logging on, I realized that I had missed my goal by 300 meters; the challenge total had only shown 699.7km. If I wanted to achieve my goal (and there was no doubt I wanted, especially at this stage!), I had no option but to go out again on the last day to run the last 300 meters. But how can you run 300 meters after having run half marathons or more on each of the preceding days? I couldn’t, and so decided to make it 8 to 10 km, but then felt so good that I just went on and on, for again 22km.
The biggest challenge in India has been the water. Due to the humidity, I assume, I had developed bruises on my back so that I could no longer carry my Camelbak with my 2 liters water reservoir, so I had to run my half marathons without water supply in a climate that really requires one to drink a lot of water, even when not running. To overcome this shortage, I drank a lot of water the evening/night before, plus 1.5 to 2 liters before running, and I was fine for the whole run, but a bit tough with a stomach full of water at the beginning. At the end of the runs, the scale had indicated a loss of body weight of 2.5kg to 3kg, which I think is quite substantial.
I am very happy having had an opportunity to run in this challenge, which has been beautifully designed and moderated by dacadoo. I have learnt a lot about myself and my limits, and best of all, the challenge has given me a lot of room for my thoughts during the over 70 hours I have spent running.